Friday, December 17, 2010

Why you should read the Alcatraz series...

There is one reason you should read the Alcatraz books, by my all time favorite author, Brandon Sanderson.

They are more epically awesome than Dairy Queen Blizzards. Yes, this has been scientifically proven.

What? You're not going to take my word for it? Well, then, I'll just have to persuade you.

If you are looking for an exciting new adventure, with fantastical technology, a cast of humorous characters, and a surprisingly 3-dimensional lead character, look no further! What makes the Alcatraz books stand out, though, is all of the narrator. I think writers, especially, will find these books laugh out loud funny, because of all the rules that Sanderson breaks on purpose. And, of course, he starts with the first sentence.

So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.

Guess what? I have read all four of the currently published books, and I have yet to reach the part of the story where he is actually about to be sacrificed by the evil Librarians. As the narrator, Alcatraz, so kindly explains later in the first chapter...

You may have noticed that I began my story with a quick snappy scene of danger and tension-but then quickly moved on to a more boring discussion of my childhood. Well, that is because I wanted to prove something to you: that I am not a nice person. Would a nice person begin with such an exiting scene, then make you wait almost the entire book to read about it?...Of course not.

And this is just the first of the literary rules he breaks. The others? Addressing the reader directly (He does it ALL the time, and it's the best part of the book!). Drawing attention to your writing. Making it hard to read in places (in book 4 he wrote a whole chapter where everyone spoke like they were in Hamlet). And generally breaking other conventional rules. But all of these things are what gives the book it's charm!

What other series contains even a few of the following things: Evil Librarians. Jokes about Shakespeare, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Wheel of Time. A narrator who tells you it is important to act out what you are reading. Fake last pages to punish people who look to the end in books.

Yeah, I know. Your brain is going to explode from the awesomeness of it, isn't it? There is only one solution. You must go buy these books right away, starting with book one, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. Trust me. You won't regret it. Click here! The paperback is only $7! And don't you dare be dissuaded by the fact that it's a kid's book. That takes nothing away from it's awesomeness.

And now, just to give you one more incentive, here is one of my favorite passages from the entire series:

Some people assume that authors write books because we have vivid imaginations and want to share our vision. Other people assume that authors write because we are bursting with stories, and therefore must scribble those stories down in moment of creative propondidty.

Both groups of people are completely wrong. Authors write books for one, and only one, reason: because we like to torture people.

Now, actual torture is frowned upon in civilized society. Fortunately, the authorial community has discovered in storytelling and even more powerful-and more fulfilling-means of causing agony in others. We write stories. And by doing so, we engage in a perfectly legal method of doing all kinds of mean and terrible things to our readers.

Take, for instance, the word I used above. Propondidty. There is no such word-I made it up. Why? Because it amused me to think of thousands of readers looking up a nonsense word in their dictionaries...

Yes, it really is that amazing the whole way through.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

So, my dad and three of my siblings went to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader at midnight on Thursday night (or rather, 12:01 on Friday morning) and I really enjoyed it! In some ways it was my favorite of the three Narnia movies to date, but in others, it was the weakest. Without spoiling anything, lets just say that one of the added storylines (not from the book) was a little weak. It just didn't work all the way for me. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the movie, but I was not happy with some of the changes they made. Along those lines, I decided to rewrite the story in a way that would fix all of the film's issues. At least for me. Mind you, this is only a quick fix; with more time I could do better. But I would have had no issues with the movie if the basic story had gone something like this...

(Warning! Here be Spoilers! But if you've read the book, I tried to be vague with the movie-specific spoilers.)
(Second warning, the writing is kinda rough on this. I just did it for fun, and didn't feel like putting too much work into it.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

Edmund and Lucy, formerly King Edmund the Just, and Queen Lucy the Valiant, are staying with their cousin, Eustace. A fact neither of them is very pleased with. While the siblings are having a nice talk in Lucy's room, Edmund notices how 'Narnian' a picture of a sailing ship looks. Edmund has a nice monolouge about all of the amazing things he did when he was king, before Eustace interupts to mock their 'childishness'. Eustace tries to say something clever, but every time he does, Edmund says something infinately wittier. Then the picture comes to life, and they fall into the ocean of Narnia, as Prince Caspian's ship, the Dawn Treader, is passing by.

Edmund, out of the kindness of his heart, saves Eustace from drowning, while help from the Dawn Treader arrives. They are hauled aboard, and everyone bows to the returned King and Queen. After honoring them, Prince Caspian obviously hands command of the ship over to High King Edmund, who ranks above him. They sail for a while and Edmund takes advantage of the time to beat Caspian repeatedly at swordplay and give first aid training to all the deck hands, all while knitting socks to donate to children orphaned by WWII.

They reach Terebinthia, and the Dawn Treader send a boat to shore. They are worried, because things do not seem to be right on this island town, and soon their fears are confirmed. They are captured by slave traders who rule mercilessly over the common people of Terebinthia. Edmund alone eludes capture and single handedly rescues the entire crew of the DT, along with Caspian, Lucy, and Eustace, from being sold as slaves.

After freeing the slaves, Edmund finds out about an evil green mist which comes from the east, and sets out to vanquish it.

They sail to the next island, and after doing most of the work himself and teaching all of the crew the ancient, deadly, art of Kung Fu, Edmund leaves Caspian to watch over Lucy, and falls asleep.Unfortunately, Caspian, who had eaten a very large dinner and drank several glasses of wine, falls asleep on duty, allowing the Dufflepuds to kidnap Lucy. When the camp awakens, Caspian regretfully informs Edmund of his failure. Edmund stalks off to find his sister, deeply irritated by Caspian's failure to be competent.

Everything turns out all right, and Aslan meets them in the mansion where he warns them of the tasks to come. He especially warns Edmund of the trials he will face, and encourages him to stay faithful to what he believes.

They sail to the next island where Eustace is turned into a dragon, an Edmund is the only one who believes at first, trying, out of the kindness of his heart, to see that Eustace is well cared for. Later, Edmund, followed by Lucy and Caspian, find a magical pool which turns everything to gold. Caspian and Edmund are severely effected by the pool, and they start shouting at each other. Edmund makes several very good points, but everything Caspian says is false and malicious.

After Edmund snaps himself out of it, entirely on his own, he appologizes to Caspian. Caspian, though, seeing the truth in Edmund's complaints, bows to him, and again declares him High King of Narnia.

They leave the island, which Eustace flying behind the ship. At the next island, Edmund figures out the way to stop the green mist, and they sail off to the Dark Island to fight it.

The fight scenes here are too epic to describe accurately, but they involve lots of Edmund doing awesome things, like the hag and werewolf scene from the Prince Caspian movie.

Then, in a total Crowning Moment of Awesome, Edmund defeats the temptations of the White Witch, who continues to haunt his mind, destroys the sea monster and saves the ship just in time. Eustace does his thing, and then they win.

After finding Aslan's country, Aslan makes a point of telling Eustace how wonderful he was, and commending him for standing firm in his beliefs, despite the fact that his betrayal from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, still haunts him. They go back to England, and there are five minutes devoted to talking about what happened to Edmund next.

The End.

Anyway, as I said, these would have been quick (but effective) fixes. I would like to try to actually rewrite the plot in a serious way, but this was more fun. Honestly, if the movie really had gone like this, I would have died from happiness. So it's probably best that it didn't. :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nanowrimo: VICTORY!

I did it! Wahooooo! 50,000 words in 30 days!

Ok, I'll spare you all my running around and screaming from the rooftops, because frankly, I'm rather embarrassed about that. Now that the first draft is done, I am looking forward, rather nervously, to the long haul of actually getting this book into something I would let someone else read. And it isn't even close, right now. But before I look ahead to all of that craziness, I'd like to take a minute to tell you about the craziness that has already passed-some of which happened during Nanowrimo, and some of which happened before.

I have been working on the story called 'Dark' since last December, when I finished Dark (the first book in the series), if not before. And when I say 'working' I mean thinking about it. Because, like my dad always give me a hard time about, I rarely write things down. Even story ideas. Most of them bounce around in my brain, colliding with other ones, and sometimes sticking together in exciting ways. The only things I physically wrote down were as follows: "Arrow captured in riot; meets up with gang leader. Whispering room (ellipse shaped room where whispers can be heard at the foci)"{I came up with that last idea while taking geometry} All written on a piece of scrap paper, shoved into my writing notebook. And this didn't even make it into my story.

So I thought I would walk you through some of the steps that did influence my story, even though they were never written down.

First, I should explain that I use a lot of music to give me plot inspirations. No one who I explain this to really understands, but I find it very helpful. I think I get this from the fact that I watch a lot of Fan Videos on YouTube and telling a story with music has become almost a habit to me. Here is an example I found. I do the same this as this person, only with my stories, instead of TV shows (if that makes any sense at all). Warning: This loaded in really poor quality by default. If you want to really appreciate it, put up the quality to at least 360.

With that in mind, here is a particular fanvid for Firefly/Serenity that definitely influenced my story. I hadn't seen Firefly or Serenity at the time and when I saw this video, for some reason I got the idea that River (the girl in the video) was the villain, even though she didn't really want to be. That influenced my character, Bruna, a lot, and really informed her arc through book one (Dark), and Dusk. Warning: Same as before. Bump up the quality before you watch.

The next big plot inspiration that I got from YouTube came courtesy of a scene from a show I have never watched. Knowing what I did about the show (from a blogger read who likes it), I totally picked up on the tension. I watched this video over and over for several days, and finally realized that it needed to be in my story. The only problem? I didn't have a character that fit Damon's role. I played around with the idea in my head for a while, and finally decided to turn my insane (sort of villainous) child, into an insane (quite villainous) young adult. And thus, Svein's character was born, as was one of my favorite subplots!
Sorry, this one wouldn't embed. Click here!

Ok, enough YouTube. Now for the crazy things that happened during Nanowrimo. Honestly, I can't list them all, but I'll give you the major ones.

The one that surprised me most was the fact that my 'main character', who's storyline I started with at the beginning, was such an utter disaster. As I said before, I had been planning this storyline for quite some time, and had everything that was going to happen worked out. No one was more surprised than I when it blew up in my face. So I had him abducted, and forgot about him. Well, not actually forgot. Just, set him aside for a while until I have time to give him the major attitude adjustment that he needs.

Most of my other 'plot deviations' were pretty small. There was the two page college football tangent that I went on a few weeks ago. It honestly wasn't more than that, since the story got on track again as soon as I started writing. On Sunday a friend of mine actually asked if everything was all right with my story, considering the Boise State loss Friday night. Surprisingly, everything was alright. Had the story not been going fairly well at the time, thought, there probably would have been some sort of mass genocide. It would totally have fit my mood.

Then, at the end of the story, my favorite character from the Wheel of Time books, Mat Cauthon, decided to stop by. I was writing a scene and couldn't stop myself from thinking how awesome he would be in it. So I put him in it. Surprisingly, he actually ended up playing a pretty important part in the plot, and turning into a character that was not really that similar to THE Mat, except in looks.

There is your taste of the crazy things that go on inside my head. Nanowrimo was crazy this year, mostly due to the fact that we had so many things come up. But the important thing is to never give up, and get the words written in whatever way you can. And I did that. Now I just need to wait for my Nano Winner's shirt to arrive, so I can show it off to all you people!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Apologies to my Characters

Because they have to put up with a lot from me...

Dear Ember,
I'm sorry for writing you out of the story. Trust me, you're not dead or anything, I just couldn't deal with your intense depression right then (or now). You'll be back in a future draft, but for now, you'll just have to stay with the Asian ninja woman who abducted you. Let this serve as a warning to you. Get your attitude issues under control.

Dear Flynn,
I'm sorry for writing your best friend out of the story. I only realized after I did that how lonely you were going to be. Also, I'm sorry for the fact that you and Arrow can't seem to get along, despite the fact that you both like each other. I'm pretty sure you've hit the bottom now, so things should be looking up for you two. I'm sorry that whenever someone needs to be injured, you are the one that takes the fall for it. I'm sorry for branding your wrist, breaking your ribs, and torturing you last book. And in this book, I'm sorry for breaking your foot, giving you a limp, and letting Svein break your hand and give you a black eye. If it's any consolation, he didn't mean anything by it.

Dear Arrow,
I'm really sorry I had Svien fall in love with you. I know he's kind of (ok, alot) creepy, but he doesn't know any better. Things are about to get much worse, as far as he goes, so sorry in advance. Also, sorry for making Flynn clueless. And I'm sorry I made you say those mean things about him. I didn't realize you were going to do that. I promise things get better. Oh, and sorry for killing your best friend. It hasn't happened, yet, but it will, so be prepared.

Dear Kaeth,
Sorry for killing Charis. Though, actually, you should be thanking me. When I realized how upset you were going to be, I decided that he didn't need to die after all. You'll see him again soon, so stop complaining.

Dear Charis,
Sorry for trapping you inside your own mind. But hey, it's better than being dead, right? Oh, and you lose all your powers. Sorry about that, too. Sorry for making your twin sister, Bruna, insane. I know it must be hard to watch, but trust me, she redeems herself in the end.

Dear Bruna,
Sorry for driving you insane. Your brother needed to be abducted for plot reasons, so I didn't really have a choice. You should be happy, though, considering you saved his life. Killing innocent people (or guilty people) won't help, though. And Charis isn't going to be very happy with you, when he wakes up.

Dear Village People,
Sorry. You were written into the story for the express purpose of dying.

Dear Jenna,
(see: Village People)

Dear Svien (or Svein),
Sorry I can't remember, or decide, how to spell your name, and sorry it's such a lame name, too, since you're a great character. I just typed random letters that sort of made a name. Sorry for making your life so awful. Sorry for giving you panic attacks. Sorry for making you, essentially, a sociopath. I wish I could say things got better, but I think you're at the high point in your story right now. Sorry for giving you super awesome powers, but making you too scared to use them most of the time.

Dear Delfi,
Wait, what am I apologizing to you for? I rescued you from twenty-one years of imprisonment! I owe you no apologies, at all. (Unless you want me to apologize for putting you in the tower in the first place. Which, I suppose, is valid.)

Nanowrimo: Week Three is the new Week Two

So, most people are supposed to struggle most in week 2. Well, I had my share of ups and downs that week, but it was nothing like what hit with week 3. I suppose part of my problem was that I got stuck in a scene that was necessary, but not enjoyable. I didn't want to go back to it, but I didn't feel like skipping it either. But there was also the problem of real life getting in the way of things. Whether it was work, or other school, or the tragedy we had occur in our family, non-fictional stuff was getting in the way. Which is just not cool.

So after pressing through that annoying scene, I realized it was Friday and I had gotten hardly anything done. Now, Friday presented an entirely different kind of problem. For those of you who don't know me very well, I'll have you know that I'm a HUGE Boise State Broncos fan, and college football is a large part of my life during the fall. So Friday, with the BSU game coming up, and general busyness going on, I didn't get anything done then either. Saturday is college football day, so I really couldn't get my mind off it. As a result, I made two decisions.

The first decision was that I needed to write 10,000 words on Sunday, so I could catch back up to where I should be. And the second was that, since I couldn't get football out of my head, I should write it into my story.

That's how college football ended up in my medieval fantasy novel, and that's how I got 9,000 words written on Sunday. Frankly, the football didn't last long. Once I got it out of my system and got back into my characters, it was no longer a distraction. However, I still think it's a funny story to relate. As for the 9,000 words, I'm pretty satisfied with that, even though I didn't quite make my goal. As of today my word count is up to 33,944, only about a 1,000 behind (plus today's word count). After yesterday, that seems like nothing...

Anyway, you can bet their was some pretty awful writing yesterday, aside from the college football. One of my characters had a very long discussion with another character about every aspect of a relationship that has been going on since the beginning of book one, and that was a great passage! I accomplished lots of dialog, forced backstory, and bad writing all at the same time! Then two of my characters who are supposed to be in love got in a fight and said some very mean things to each other. Yeah, it was one of those days.

On to the excerpts!

Worst Sentence: Streets were not placed in firm grids and alleys were as jumbled as pizzas. (Where do I start with this one? First of all, I don't think pizza has been invented yet. Second, that analogy. I don't know where that came from. Pizza was the first thing that came into my head so I wrote it down. I guess I was hungry.)

Best Sentences: The were pale blue, like the winter sky, and cold. But they were not merely cold. They were dead. That was the closest thing he could compare those eyes to. Dead eyes. (There weren't many to choose from, yesterday, but this worked better than most, I think.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nanowrimo: Two Weeks Done!

Yay! Two weeks are over, and now we're kinda on the homestretch! I'm not quite halfway, but I'm sure I will be tomorrow...

Anyway, I don't have much to say other than celebratory stuff like, "Yay, that sentence actually made sense!" or "Wow! I didn't know anyone could write that many words and still communicate exactly the same thing!". I have definately resorted to some word count padding tricks, like having a different character describe my other characters, just for fun. Or saying things several times. Like I just did there.

Anyway, Madison, off to bed now! The writer needs sleep if she doesn't want to be talking to herself tomorrow... Uh-Oh. It's happening.

Excerpt of the Week: (This week's slightly longer excerpt is brought to you by my insane character. You're welcome.)
He frowned at her. “Of course. They tell me things all the time. Don't they talk to you?” Then a thought seemed to occur to him. “No, they don't talk to you. Only to me. I'm different.” He met her eyes, seeming to see her soul. “Why am I different?” he asked urgently.
“I don't know. I don't even know your name.” Arrow said curtly.
He sat back, as if she had slapped him, then chuckled. “I didn't tell you my name? How rude. That's rude, isn't it?”
Arrow nodded.
“Well,” he mused to himself, “What is my name? Some call me 'Colorless', and curses that I won't repeat to your delicate ears” he smiled, as if he knew he'd just told a joke. “Some call me Raan, which means leader. Some call me Thief or Scoundrel. What my mother would have named me, I don't know, for I never knew her. So I call myself Svein, which means coward, because that is what I am.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nanowrimo: The week of Despair!

So, I've given up on keeping track of the days. Since I haven't given an actual word count since day one, I'll have you know that I'm at 18,496 words, which is pretty good considering I didn't write anything on Saturday or Sunday, and hardly anything on Monday. Real life has been mean to my writing time, but I am getting close to caught up, if I'm not already. The bad news is, if I don't want to owe my sister a 30 minute favor, I have to get to 35,000 by Monday. Bad news.

The story itself is going pretty well, for week two. Ember, one of my main characters, has remained kidnapped by a nameless Asian ninja woman, and I'll probably give him another chance soon. A week and a half break should be long enough, don't you think?

Anyway, I need to sleep so I can run in the morning. :P

Worst Sentences: She laughed, a sound like water leaping over rocks in a cool forest.

Best Sentences: He remembered, as vividly as if it happened yesterday, how she had looked at him through the bars. As if nothing had happened. As if she had not betrayed all of their months of planning.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nanowrimo Days 4, 5, 6

So, now I'm going to write about my laziness. Guess what? I'm not going to get very much writing done today. We left to tailgate in Julia Davis at 9 this morning, and didn't get home till five. Dinner and bedtime were crazy, and I still need to clean one of the seats in our big van from when Knightley threw up. I need to be sure I remember the lines for the skit I'm doing before church tomorrow and get to bed early enough so that I can benefit from the time change, and still have time to walk Knightly before church. Oy.

So, I'm not planning on getting much (if any) writing done tonight. Instead, I'm going to post a poll on my facebook, for people to help me decide whether or not to kill my main character and then watch an episode of Merlin. Yeah, I know. Shame on me. But I'll catch up tomorrow. Promise.

Least favorite excerpt (overall, so far): Ember sighed. It was depressing how morbid he had become of late. There was a time, what seemed like ages ago now, when he had maintained a some what optimistic outlook on life. That time was over now. (These are the opening sentences of my book. Can you tell why I feel like killing this character? Ugg. A person can only stand so much angst.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nanowrimo Day 2+3

So, when I last posted I was feeling rather down. Writing was not going smoothly, and I was struggling. That's not how it's supposed to be in Week One. Week one is supposed to be easy, and then Week Two gets tougher. Thankfully, I have found my feet (though I'm not sure how this expression translates into writing terms. I'm not typing with my toes).

Day Two, and especially Day Three, have gone much more smoothly. Why, you ask? This is the very question I have been asking myself. This is the conclusion I have come up with.

To make a long story short, my main character is the problem. I started with his storyline, and really struggled with it. Now I have switched to two other storylines, and the story is progressing along nicely. One solutions I've considered? I may have to kill him. No hasty decisions yet, but I'm seriously considering it.

Worst Sentences: The room she entered was the most beautiful she had ever seen. Directly in front of her there was a set of stained glass windows framed by the most gorgeous velvet curtains she had ever seen. (Ok, we get it. It's all very pretty. Unfortunately, it goes on.)

Best Sentences: We'll, he guessed where he was, but thinking about it made his head ache. His whole existence ache, acutally, since he wasn't sure he actually had a body anymore. If he did, he had not control over it. He felt like a thought. It had taken him several months of awareness to come up with that idea, but he was proud of it. He had never known what a thought felt likebut now, he imagined, he did. (I like these because they make hardly any sense. Yay, for blundering through an explanation you're making up as you go along!)

Now back to writing!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nanowrimo Day 1

So, since I've decided to write a 50,000 word novel this month, I thought it would be a good idea to blog about it. That way, I could spend valuable writing time typing words that don't count towards my goal! Booyah!

Day 1 of Nano is almost over, but it honestly feels more like Day 2. I was insane last night, and attended the Boise Nanowrimo Kickoff Party, which went until two in the morning. Yes, I took a nap, today. Despite the fact that I was tired today, I was glad I went to the Kickoff. Mostly because, when midnight struck, I found myself writing in from the point of view of a character who was only interested in throwing himself a pity-party. Two pages in, and I was completely depressed about how this storyline was going. What had seemed like a complelling plot, was actually more angsty than Twilight.

That is where my fellow writers came to my rescue. Per their suggestions, I simply had my character abducted by an Asian ninja woman, and hit on the head with a brick. Then I moved to another storyline. Hopefully these measures will ensure that my character is less emo when I return to him. :s

Ok, enough words here. I managed to get over 2000 last night (a whole 100 of which, might actually be decent), and I hope to get a few more done tonight. Before I go, I will share a few sentences-samples of my worst and best writing from last night.

Worst Sentences: He liked to imagine it was his father's coat. Or at least, he had when he had cared.

Best Sentences: That was the worst of it. Watching the two of them have something she could never share. She sometimes picked up his books, just to feel the pages and gaze at the words which were printed onto the page, as if by magic.

Now leave me some encouraging comments, people! :)